9 March 2012: Abigail’s Party, Can We Talk About This?, We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?)

Weekly review roundup: 9 March 2012

This week’s best-reviewed show was Abigail’s Party, written by Mike Leigh and directed by Lindsay Posner at the Menier. So far, it has pulled reviews from five top critics, and all of them four stars.


In addition to the wealth of Jacobean drama this year, another kind of historical drama is now taking over the scene: like Absent Friends and In Basildon, Abigail’s Party is a meditation on the fragility of human relationships, class, and the 1970s. The reviews all have a tone of relief to them, both for the deft handling of a play which people have such a strong notion of (due to its BBC broadcast decades ago), and for the Menier being back on form after a string of poorly-received shows.


Matt Trueman (What’s On Stage; full review) says “Leigh’s best-loved play shows the undercurrents of misogyny and material aspiration swirling beneath the era’s gauche surface,” with strong performances from the entire cast. Trueman credits this in part to Posner, who “controls fraying tempers and momentary outbursts with a conductor’s sensitivity.” (Posner is busy this month, with his heralded production of Noises Off also moving from the Old Vic to the West End.) Runs to 21 April.


There weren’t any other big new winners this week; the median review score was three stars.


A potential strong performer to watch for next week is Can We Talk About This?, which got a five-star from Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) late last year in Coventry, and starts a three-week run at the National tonight. In the show, dance company DV8 interprets snippets of interviews about Islamic extremism; Cavendish found it “commendable”, “compelling” and “brave” (full review).


Also, We Hope That You’re Happy (Why Would We Lie?), an edgy two-hander about passivity in the face of bad things happening to good people, got an early four-star from What’s On Stage (read review). It’s on at Battersea Arts Centre and runs to 24 March.


It’s been a busy week for your StageScan reviewer, who saw The King’s Speech (3.5 stars) on the eve of its West End opening, and The Summer House (4 stars) at the Gate earlier this week, and has got In Basildon tonight and Snookered tomorrow. He will not rest until we find you another five-star. (If you find one first, please come back and post a review to let the rest of us know.)

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